Students wishing to join Mensa, an international society for people who score high on standardized measures of IQ, can take the first step toward membership Saturday afternoon at the Ames Public Library.
Two tests used to qualify people for Mensa admission will be given in the Founder's Suite of the library. Registration will begin at 1 p.m. The testing itself will begin half an hour later. The testing fee will be $40.
ISU alumna Marie Mayer, Central Iowa Mensa's testing coordinator, will proctor the tests. The first given will be the 12-minute, 50-question Mensa Wonderlic. The second will be The Mensa Admissions Test.
Mayer said aspiring Mensans should plan to devote one and a half hours to the two tests. People whose scores fail to qualify them for the society can still gain admission by submitting documented scores on many other tests, including the GRE and the LSAT.
"There are over 200 tests they accept scores for," Mayer said.
Only those who score at or above the 98th percentile on an approved test may join Mensa. They can then pay the $84-a-year membership dues to get access to Mensa events, a subscription to The Mensa Bulletin (published 10 times a year) and discounted rates on products like life insurance.
They also can join Special Interest Groups, which are for fans of specific arts or activities. Past groups have been devoted to pursuits as diverse as theater, jazz, quilting and motorcycling.
For Mayer, who's been in Mensa since 1978, the best perk the society offers is the companionship of her fellow Mensans.
"The thing for me about Mensa has been the people," she said. "Mensa filled a niche in my life."
Mayer especially enjoys the "Lunch Bunch" events that local chapters organize, during which chapter members dine out together.
"The conversations are fascinating," she said.
She added that many members — including her — have met their future spouses through Mensa.
So many couples have been brought together by the society that Mensans have a special term for them.
"We call them 'M & M's,'" Mayer said.
Sophia Preston, senior in computer engineering, has been a member of Mensa for the past six years. Like Mayer, she said she enjoys the company of her fellow Mensans more than any other organizational perk.
"It's just a chance to get together and talk with people," Preston said.
Preston has enjoyed game nights organized by local chapter members, and participated in several Special Interest Groups, including one for members of Generation X and another for parents of gifted children.
She said those who characterize high-IQ societies as elitist are mistaken.
"We don't sit around talking about our intelligence test scores," she said.
Preston said people could make the society as big — or as small — a part of their lives as they chose.
"It's all participation-based," she said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for people."